Aretha Franklin’s Handwritten Wills Has Her Sons Battling In Court Over Her Estate 5 Years After Her Death
When the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, died on Aug. 16, 2018, she did so with no formal will. Franklin penned two handwritten wills at different times, and now, her sons are going to court to determine which one will be used to direct how her estate will be handled.
According to The Associated Press, the four sons of Franklin will gather to find out which handwritten document will be used as a guide to the fortune and possessions of the legendary soul singer.
Based on Michigan law, a formal formatted will is unnecessary as other documents that the person may create can be used as legal paperwork. Two documents discovered by the family were written in 2010 and again in 2014 by Franklin. One son is going up against the remaining three in this dispute to find out which document will be the one the family has to abide by.
Ted White II feels that the first will, written in 2010, should be the one the family follows. Brothers Kecalf Franklin and Edward Franklin believe the family should follow instructions left by their mother in 2014. Both documents were discovered in the soul singer’s Detroit home months after she passed away at 76.
Knowing that their mother had no will written, the brothers knew they would most likely have to split the assets left by their mother. A niece, Sabrina Owens, agreed to be the estate executor. In spring 2019, Owens reported that a handwritten will dated 2010 was discovered in a cabinet. Another handwritten will, dated 2014, was also found inside a notebook under cushions at her home.
There were changes made to the original will.
Both documents stated that the sons would share income from music and copyrights. The one from 2010 listed White and Owens as co-executors and says that Kecalf and Edward Franklin “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree” to benefit from the estate.
Yet, the 2014 document had White’s name crossed out as executor and replaced him with Kecalf. Kecalf and the grandchildren would get Aretha’s main home in Bloomfield Hills. Those differences are what the dispute is about.
“Two inconsistent wills cannot both be admitted to probate. In such cases, the most recent will revokes the previous will,” Charles McKelvie, Kecalf’s attorney, said in a court filing in favor of the 2014 document.
Yet, White’s attorney, Kurt Olson, stated that the 2010 will was notarized and signed, adding that the one from 2014 “is merely a draft.”
“If this document were intended to be a will, there would have been more care than putting it in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion,” Olson said.
The court date is scheduled for July 10, 2023, and will decide the fate of the opposing documents that Franklin wrote for the benefit of handling her assets in death.